Matt McHugh
Matt - Blog - June 2006


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Evolution Poetry Contest Entry
June 25, 2006

So here's another writing contest I didn't win: a poetry thing for the Society for Biological Evolution. About a month ago, I happened across their website and saw a call for entries for their annual "Evolution Poetry Contest." Any format, any subject, any length--as long as it pertained to some aspect of evolution. As this is a topic that greatly interests me--specifically in regard to the persistent resurgence of Biblical creationism in the guise of "Intelligent Design" foisted upon school boards around the country by Kontemporary Konservative Khristians with Medieval mentalities and 21st century lawyers--I thought I'd take a whack at it. So, I sat me down one evening and crafted me a little Shakespearean sonnet encapsulating some of my thoughts on the matter. Here it is:


So let's say there's a God who wants to grow
The world of complex life we see today--
Now suppose that four billion years ago
He nudged a protein to get it underway.
What kind of mind could conceive such a thing,
Cascading through a trillion generations;
Endless variety from a four-pair string,
The chance for change in every replication.
I stand in awe of a God who creates
With only time and biochemistry.
I am humbled to glimpse how it all relates:
Every creature is truly kin to me.
Don't teach my children your small-minded design
Let them naturally discover the divine.

Yeah, I cheat a syllable here and there and I never quite know how to punctuate these things, but that's a pretty tight little ditty, if you ask me. It incorporates a few sentiments that I've long wanted to articulate about the issue. In a nutshell, it's always bugged that these creationist chowderheads have been permitted to frame the debate in terms of Faith v. Atheistic Science--as if accepting evolution negates belief in God. Any thinking Christian believer--which Biblical creationists certainly are not (unless you consider "conniving" a form of thinking)--has long since figured out that if God is truly God, He can create any God-damned way He pleases. If you set as your fundamental premise of faith that God created all things, then that premise is categorically separate from and unchallengeable by any scientific inquiry into the mechanisms of creation. In short: why can't God use evolution to create life?

If you take a literal reading of the Bible as your only input on this, you're in a bit of a pickle when it comes to accepting observable fact that seems at odds with its account. Of course, the Bible is not a work of science--e.g., it says the Sun goes around the Earth (look it up, chowderheads)--but this doesn't dissuade those who expect it to be all things at all times. What scientists and rational people need to do is to wake up a public long spoon-fed the "Evolution is Godless" argument to the fact that evolution science--indeed, all science--offers no comment one way or the other on the existence or purposes of God. The vast body of physical evidence cataloged to date overwhelmingly points to the likelihood that all existing life descended from common ancestry. Whether you want to believe that happened by pure chance or all went down according to the Divine Plan, that's completely your call.

Oh, and the winners of the Society for Biological Evolution's 2006 Poetry Contest? Sucked. Seriously, first place went to some rambling 1,600(!)-word clunkily stanza-ized prose meditation on Darwin's home life. Some of the others were OK. Mine's better. Seriously, it is. Ask anyone (except the SBE judges).

-- mm

Winners of the Society for Biological Evolution's 2006 Poetry Contest on

Fixing Toys
June 24, 2006

For the better part of a year, I've been accumulating broken toys on a shelf in my den. Action figures, mostly, with limbs and heads twisted off. More and more, you find these exquisitely detailed figures with anthropometric proportions and hyper-articulated joints, neither of which stand up to being played with very well. These things are obviously made to suit adult collectors--who rarely even take them out of the box--rather than children's play patterns.

Anyway, I had a shelfful of busted figures and other stuff that I kept meaning to get around to fixing and, like so much else, never did. Fine... so last weekend, I managed to steal some time in the garage to work on them. Here's the item inventory and catalog of damages:

  • Mrs. Incredible - both legs broken at the knee; one arm at the elbow
  • Violet Incredible - one arm at the elbow
  • Frozone - one leg at the hip
  • Black Canary (A Justice League Unlimited gal) - head off
  • Dr. Light (Another Justice League Unlimited gal) - head off (obviously JLU gals have a problem here)
  • Aquaman - hook-hand off (so Aquaman has a hook-hand now? Didn't when I was a kid)
  • Wing-Flapping Tinkerbell - both wings ripped off
  • Assorted Christmas ornaments - broken angel wings, missing penguin skis, hook mounts ripped out of heads, etc.

I was able to fix most of them. Some were easy hot-glue jobs (ornaments with broken bits), others required a little more ingenuity. For example, I knew the JLU gal heads needed extra support. The reason why they broke in the first place is that they have long, hard plastic hair--yet, their heads turn. Therefore, turning their heads neatly levers them right off. I had to drill out their heads and bodies, then insert a strong, plastic shim to serve as a pseudo-spine and hot glue the whole thing. Worked like a charm. For the Incredibles figure--by far the worst offenders in the made-for-collectors-not-kids category--I had to actually fashion artificial replacement joints. Knees and elbows were fabricated by taking stiff wire, wrapping it twice around a nail to form a loop, then twisting the ends together to make a braided stump. Then, I drilled into the severed limp and hot glued the braid-stump in. I cut a finishing nail to make a pin in the arm or leg for the joint loop, then bent and hot glued the cut nail ends to make sure the pin stayed in place and had no exposed sharp edges.

The reason I'm going on about this in such detail is simple: I enjoyed it. Mainly, I enjoyed getting a hour or so alone in the garage relatively kid free--but the challenge of engineering functioning toy orthopedics was a genuine pleasure, a problem-solving conundrum like a sodoku or crossword puzzle. More and more, I find I enjoy the feeling of being presented with something that I know I can do, but have no idea exactly how I will manage it. These tasks can be big or small, but the small ones tend to get solved more frequently, or at least more quickly, than the biggies. Giving Mrs. Incredible a new lease on life (and it is a lease, since the kids will no doubt make short work of my repairs, sturdy though they be) is a little accomplishment that I can take pride in when so much in my life is a vast, nebulous stretch of ongoing problems that are not so much to be solved as endured. A bit too philosophical for you? OK, then just reduce it to: "Take time to enjoy the little things in life." Mixing toys and power tools is certainly a recipe for an afternoon of minor enjoyment.

BTW... for hack home repair jobs, hot glue is definitely the new duct tape.

-- mm

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